Participant Recruitment for an Anorexia Nervosa Treatment Study

Christa McDermott, W. Stewart Agras, Scott J. Crow, Katherine Halmi, James E. Mitchell, Susan Bryson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Objective: To investigate the nature of differing recruitment rates for clinical treatment trials for anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Methods: Recruitment rates from a study recruiting women partially recovered from anorexia nervosa were compared with the rates from two studies conducted at the same sites recruiting women with bulimia nervosa. Results: At all sites in the anorexia study, the total number of contacts per month rose steadily over the first 2 years of the recruitment phase then decreased to near zero with the number of participants randomized to the study practically evaporating. In contrast, the bulimia studies screened a larger group of contacts and met monthly randomization goals in the time allotted for recruitment. Participants eligible for a study but with a barrier to participation occurred at a much higher rate in the anorexia study than in the bulimia studies. Discussion: These results reveal a difficulty in planning recruitment from a small population such as partially recovered anorexics. A small population's total pool size diminishes faster than it is replenished, suggesting that future studies of anorexia nervosa may recruit more successfully from many sites in a short period rather than at a few sites over a long period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-41
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2004


  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Clinical trial design
  • Participant recruitment


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